December 5th was an especially heartwarming and memorable day for many people this year. My dear friend, Mary started “the Thankful Hearts Project” a year ago to remember December 5th in a positive light, and to pay it forward by doing random acts of kindness.
December 5, 2011 was the day her husband, then 33 years old, had a very complicated, yet successful open heart surgery in New York. This procedure saved her husband’s heart and life. Instead of trying to forget about the darkest days of their lives, she is memorializing this day and event by turning around and warming complete strangers’ hearts… and encouraging others to do the same.
Mary and her husband Bryan are not your typical couple. They are the people many of us strive to be more like. Instead of keeping up with the Jones, this world would be a much better place if people tried to be more like the Beasleys.
I met them back in 2004 when Bryan and I worked at the same financial institution. Bryan told me then that I should really meet his wife, Mary because we would get along great – well, fast forward 10 years and three kids (for each of us) later… Mary and I are very close friends, and we share many of the same friends and interests.
Mary and Bryan have always been caring and giving towards anyone in need. Their hearts are genuine and warm and I am so proud to call them both “friends”. I am also not surprised about Mary’s decision to honor her husband’s medical staff and his heart journey by turning it into a day of extending kindness towards others. She is truly one of the most positive and optimistic people I know.
This year I decided to make the world a little brighter by handing out Starbucks gift cards to random and unsuspecting people. The first person who received a card was the crossing guard we pass every morning on our way to school. She stands out there in rain or shine and waves at all the parents and children driving by. Jacob (7) asked why we stopped and handed her an envelope, and I admittedly broke down in tears when I tried to explain to him how sick his “Coach Bryan” was just a few short years ago. (Bryan happened to be Jacob’s soccer coach this past season, and a rather impressive and dedicated one at that). Jacob understood though the effect that a random act of kindness can have on someone when he saw the smile on the crossing guard’s face. She light up – and THAT was the intended effect – on both Jacob and the crossing guard.
Jacob then asked if we could give one to the maintenance manager at his school. He is always quick to smile and greet the kids and their parents in the mornings. Jacob always points out Mr. Hatcher to me, so I knew that he must go out of his way to be kind to the kids during the day. He broke out in a huge smile when he received our gift card and Jacob was thrilled to see how happy it made him.
I was so touched by the smiles and appreciative gratitude I received that morning, especially because neither of the recipients knew what I handed them. It wasn’t at all the fact that I gave them a free trip to Starbucks that made them happy – but just that I took the extra 30 seconds to address them and connect with them – THAT is what mattered.
The rest of the day was just as much fun for me. I paid for the person behind me in the Starbucks drive-thru that morning. I know, there is a common theme here with me offering people free Starbucks – perhaps I should buy some shares in the company before next December 5th! I personally enjoy my morning latte so much that I think the entire world should be afforded the same luxury.
My other gift cards went to a mom in Jordan’s class who’s son has some medical complications, a tired looking mom in Publix who was baby-wearing an infant and pushing a cart with a cranky toddler, and the last card went to a woman at our neighborhood mail room who always looks rather cranky. It was such a pleasure for me to watch their faces light up when I smiled and said “I have something for you”. Again, it did not matter WHAT I handed them – but our brief connection and the fact that I chose THEM out of the crowd was all that mattered at that moment.
I could very well have given food to the needy, or provided something more meaningful to someone in a true and dire emergency. But I chose the gift cards and the particular recipients on purpose. They did not necessarily appear to be suffering or needing anything at the moment I met them. However, I feel we are all in need of more human connections throughout our day.
We “meet” friends on Facebook, we tweet about our encounters and we text prayers and loving thoughts all day long. But how often do we actually put down the electronics, lift our heads and look into someone’s eyes and truly connect?! I am as guilty as any other busy parent, spouse, friend and relative out there. But we get so caught up in rushing from place to place, being physically present at various events that we truly forget to be emotionally present as well.
Thank you, Mary and Bryan for reminded me to be more present IN THE NOW and to take those few extra seconds to connect with people who cross my path. My next step is striving to make every day December 5th – with all its selfless love and caring gestures that truly brighten everyone’s day.
If you are interested in joining the fun on December 5th, when we celebrate life through the Thankful Hearts Project, please check out www.facebook.com/thankfulheartsproject or www.thankfulheartsproject.com for more information.
But remember, you don’t have to wait until next December 5th to connect with people in your life… try it today – you will be glad you did!